Monday, June 29, 2015

Gratefulness for a Stolen Wallet

When I discovered my wallet was stolen while I showered my girls at the local public pool locker room, I did what any other normal human being would do. I fell into frustration. Became angry. I'd just been violated, and felt helpless. Someone out there had my information, my money, my identity. I couldn't buy anything. I couldn't prove to anyone who I was (should the need somehow suddenly arise), and being the weekend I couldn't just rush to the bank and withdraw cash.

I was helpless. Relying on other's for help until Monday when I could get to the bank first thing and replace cards, and driver's license, and all the other chores that come along with replacing everything in a wallet.

I spent a good deal about of time fretting and wallowing in my self-pity.

I railed against spending all of Monday at the bank and DMV. But, whether I wanted to do it or not, it had to be done. I couldn't just sit in my self-pity and frustration.

I needed to act quickly to restore my identity and my ability to care for myself and my children.

The day was filled with appointments. Dr.'s appointment I'd already scheduled, then the bank so I could get money so I could go to the DMV and pay to replace the card that was stolen from me, then to Target to get a new wallet to begin re-filling with all that'd been stolen. Then, finally, to the DMV.

I looked at my appointment calendar for the day. I'd have three hours at the DMV before my next scheduled appointment.  An appointment I knew I couldn't miss. Without an appointment at the DMV (which couldn't be scheduled until August) I knew it could be a long wait. But I headed to the the DMV to scope out the line anyway. Relief flooded me as I saw how short the line was, and I felt confidant I would be able to get what I needed to done in the three hours that I had before making it to my next appointment.

But has the hours ticked by, and my number was no closer to getting called the closer it got to my next appointment time, panic set in. Should I give up my place in line to go to my appointment and start all over after the appointment? Or should I stay at the DMV and miss my appointment?

As I weighed my options carefully, I overheard the man next to me on the phone with his wife. He was worried about not being able to get back in time to pick up his boys because of the extra long wait, and they didn't know what they'd be able to do about their kids. He would probably have to leave to get his kids and miss his chance to take care of his DMV needs since the wait was taking so long.

That did it.
I made up my mind.

I gave the man my ticket so he could be seen at least an hour earlier, get what he needed done, and be able to pick up his boys. I'd rush to my appointment. I'd come back, and start the whole process all over again - even if it meant waiting another three hours. I needed to get to that appointment, and  I didn't have kids that needed me to pick them up like that man did. I had all day to spend at the DMV if I needed to. Gratefulness for my flexibility flooded me.

As I arrived back to the DMV after my appointment, I handed the woman at the ticket counter my already filled out forms, and explained I'd been there three hours that morning but needed to leave to get to an important appointment before my number had been called. She asked what I needed to rush away so urgently for. My therapy appointment, I admitted a little bashfully - thinking maybe she'd not see how important such an appointment was, and that I should have just stayed at the DMV, missed the therapy, and too bad for me, I'd just have to sit for another three-plus hours.

"Oh, honey - that's an appointment you can't miss, for sure. Here, let me give you an appointment ticket. You won't have to wait for very long this time."

I took the ticket with grateful fingers, and thanked her for her graciousness and understanding. Even if I was flexible, time is still a precious commodity.

Twenty minutes later my number was called, and within five minutes I walked out of the DMV, stopped just outside the doors, and pulled out my new wallet to put in my temporary license.

I examined my new wallet as if for the first time while I put in that slip of paper. My much fancier, larger, more structurally sound wallet I'd purchased earlier that day. I studied how empty it was inside, and reflected how I'd be spending quite awhile re-filling it with all the cards, pictures, and things that filled my old wallet. It wasn't beat up or falling apart. It could open and close without trouble. It was stronger, and filled with so much potential.

I turned back and looked at my reflection in the glass-door of the DMV and back down at the wallet in my hand and gratefulness for my stolen wallet filled me.

Here I stood on the brink of a new me. A new life. A new - everything, really. And this wallet in my hands represented everything that I wanted to be.
                    Empty inside of all the things that needed to be gone and replaced.
                             Ready to invest quality time to re-rebuid myself, and my life, from the inside out.

I could no longer be anything but grateful for my stolen wallet, and grateful for the chance to replace what was stolen.

Grateful for this time in my life.

Because despite the pain, sadness, worry, fears, and difficulties  that are so very present. I am propelled forward by hope, love, strength, and courage instead of being driven by frustration, anger, and hate (no matter how present they are in my life, they are not my driving force behind my actions). And that, my friends, that makes all the difference.


Eleanor's 7th Birthday Party

(Author's Note: I realize I mistakenly did not write about Annabelle's 5th birthday party this year - so I will go back and fix that.)

 Birthday's are 'my thing,' as you know. But this year we decided to make things a little more low key. I went easy on all the planning. Didn't go crazy with the decorations and the invites, and . . . well, the money. Birthday parties are so expensive, even when you *ahem - I *  do them at home. I have a hard time not going nuts with 'needing' this and that, until it's more than I expected it would ever be. But you don't win 'birthday party awards' without all that work. There will be no awards won on this birthday party, but it didn't make it any less memorable, or any less special.

So, this year we invited her best friend, a few neighbors kids, and just kept it with family at a local park and public pool for swimming (which I couldn't take any pictures of because they have strict rules about no pictures or filming in the pool area. They don't want lawsuits over kids pictures being posted online without permission).

Before the swimming part of the party we grabbed a piƱata, picnic food, and had some fun in the park before spending the rest of the afternoon splashing it up in the pool.

I think I loved this birthday party more than any of the other years simply because it was easier. Not a lot of prep work. Not a lot of cleanup afterwards. I didn't stress for weeks on-end about it. I just relaxed and went with it. The most important part, though, was the joy in my daughter's face as we celebrated her life.

Celebrations of life will never get old for me - no matter how old the girls get, or how old I get - I want the celebrate the confetti out of it all. 

At (nearly) 7 years old Eleanor can read (not perfectly, but she's reading chapter books now), write beautiful micro essays, stories, books, and darn near anything she decides to write. She's lost four teeth, still is missing the front two, is a born leader, is organized, and a bit OCD about how she wants things done. She loves climbing, hiking, swinging, finding lady bugs, caterpillars and watching butterflies emerge. She's perceptive, and highly sensitive to all that she see's and hears that she knows isn't right. She wants to help others that need help (like the homeless man who lives in the parking lot next to our apartment), and is constantly keeping me from losing things, or forgetting things. She's my teacher's aide in class, helper of lesson planning and project planning enthusiast. It is hard to believe that seven years have come and gone already. It's even more mind blowing to realize that in another 7 I'll be sending her off to high school (although with her attitude sometimes, I'm not sure if she's 7 or 17 :) ) 

I love you more than tongue can tell, my Eleanor. 


Sunday, June 28, 2015

An Open Letter To My Kids With White Skin

*Authors note: I wrote this well over a week ago now, when this topic was fresh from the shooting's in Charleston. I wrote, and re-wrote, edited, and sat on it. It's still rambling, and all over the place. I have so much more I want to say, but can't get my thoughts to paper on this better than what is here. The topic is so sensitive, I worry about offending people that don't know my heart behind the words. The topic is so deep, that I know I don't cover everything that I want to here. But despite my fears in offending people, or not saying it right, I don't want to keep sitting on this post in my draft folder*

My Darling Daughters,

When you are old enough to read this letter - years and years from now - I pray to God that this letter has become just a piece of history. I pray it holds no meaning or real advice for the present conditions of the world you live in.

Today, I need to come clean to you about something really important. I need to be honest with you. I must apologize for perpetuating a hope-filled, albiet very dangerous, lie I've raised you with.

I've told you that everyone in our country is equal. I've told you that everyone in this country can get the same education, that we can all get the same jobs, that the color of our skin doesn’t count against us, and we are all afforded the same opportunities. When we studied Martin Luther King, Jr. in our class this year, we read famous quotes from his "I have a dream speech." We talked about his words: "I have a dream that one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."

I asked you to look around the room and tell me if you thought that Martin Luther's dream had come true or not.  You looked around at all the different skin colors of your classmates, as if for the first time - I'm not sure you noticed before - and you smiled.  "Then his dream has come true!"

I let you believe that it had.

I let you believe a lie.

And then we talked about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character."

We talked about looking at people's hearts and loving them for who they are on the inside, and not what they look like on the outside. We drew pictures, and we wrote letters, and I tried to get this to become a part of who you are. I want it to come naturally to you to judge people by their characters - not by their skin color, or their beauty (or apparent lack-thereof).

This past week, a terrorist shot and killed nine people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. He did it because he believed, along with far too many other people in this country, that the color of the people he killed was more important than who they were on the inside. He killed them because they were black, and he thought he was better for the ridiculously stupid reason that his skin had less melanin than theirs.

My daughters, there is no such thing as true equality in this country. Not really, and not the way Martin Luther dreamed it to be. Not the way our country needs it to be. At least not today when I'm writing you this letter, days after the horrifying terrorist attack on a church steeped in a rich history of fighting for civil rights, and the incredible people whose lives were cut short while they were worshiping there. I've been stewing on this problem for far too long. I've been watching the news over the past couple of years, and I've seen the racial divide in our country growing wider and wider. I've watched the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, when the tanks were called in to keep 'the peace' of a city that was overcome with racial tension because Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, was shot and killed by a white police officer; when the grand jury decided not to indict that white officer, the city erupted into protests. Protests that caused army tanks to roll down city streets like it was a war zone.

Because it was a war zone.

We are fighting a war, and each battle is tearing our country apart more and more. The divide is becoming greater and greater.

I can't tell you that there is equality in this country. That the color of your skin doesn't entitle you, or make others perceive you as being somehow better, or (on the other side of the coin) as being a threat to society. I wish I could.

Here's what I need you to do for me. I need you to not stay silent. I need you to be outraged about this disgusting, disturbing fact.

Remember what I taught you about bullies this past year? That most people don't like the bullies? They don't agree with the bully, but they're scared, and so they sit back and watch in horror as the bully beats up the innocent kid. They stay silent because they don't want to get in trouble.

Don't sit on the sidelines in silence and let the racist jerks get away with it anymore. Stand up and say something. Anything. Even if you think that it won't matter. That your voice won't count. Don't put up with it.

Because every voice counts. And I think more people in this country feel this way, too. I think we are sick of the racism and of the loud few (which are gaining in numbers, unfortunately - bullies have a way of doing that. Pulling more people into their crowd of hurt and hate) getting away with their acts of terrorism. I hear it from so many of the people I talk to. I know I'm not alone with my outrage and disgust.

I'm at a loss for what to do with this problem in our country. I don't know how I can put my voice out there like this and say anything about this because of the color of my skin. What do I know about racism? I don't. I know that when I was your age, I was the only white kid in my class. I know my best friend had a whole lot of melanin in her skin, and I had very little. I know that she and her family looked different than I did, because I wasn't blind. But it didn't make me think I was better, or that they were better. Actually, I lied. I thought they were better than me. They had a pool in their backyard, and I didn't.  And I was a little jealous of the color of their skin. They didn't have to worry about getting burned when we went swimming and forgot to put on sunscreen. I did.

All I know about racism is that it makes me angry. It makes me sometimes despair of ever getting better. It's easy to think "it doesn't affect me, so I can just pretend like it's not happening."  But it is happening, it's only getting worse, and it's making me (and the rest of our country) crazy. And that hurts me deeply. Yes, racism in this country hurts me. Even if I'm a white woman who is automatically given more privilege than people who are blessed with more melanin in their skin. I don't want to feel guilty for that stupid fact. I don't want to feel guilty for perpetuating the lie that Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream has come true.

It hasn't come true.

Maybe it never will.

Maybe it never can.

Sometimes, I worry that it can't. I worry that change is impossible, because people won't open their eyes to see this need for change.

I've learned a lot this past year, and this is one of the biggest truths I know: if people don't see a need for change within themselves, they'll never change. If they don't see just how much they have contributed to a problem, if it's always a "Them not Me" issue, nothing will ever get better. It will only get worse.

But don't stay silent. Don't stop shining the mirror into the world’s face, to show them that they are wrong. Don't give up hope that this problem of racism can't change.

Can you do something else for me? Don't be friends with people who think that one race is better than another. Please don't marry a bigot or a racist. Please don't be friends with those kinds of bullies.  If someone you know is put down, or mocked, or worse - because of their race (or sexual orientation, or anything), don't say silent and not stand up for the injustice. Tell these people how wrong that kind of thinking is, then love them afar. Don't let their hate infiltrate you. Stand up for what you believe, and I hope and pray that you'll believe, as I do, what Martin Luther King, Jr. believed: that we should all be judged by our character than by the color of our skin (0r anything else).

So, when you're making friends throughout your life, and when you seek out your life-long lovers, I want you to search inside the people you meet for a character of love. I want you to go where the love is, no matter the color of their skin. I could care less what the people you choose to love look like. Date people who have a lot of melanin in their skin, or a little. The outside is trivial; trust me. I know.  Seek love. Give love. And speak loudly against anyone who does anything other than live the love that has been placed inside you.

I'm heart broken today, my girls. I'm heartbroken that we live in a world where people think they're better than others because of something so trivial, and that because of that they can kill, bully, or marginalize others. I'm heartbroken that such a large group of people in this country (and world) perpetuate such unspeakable nonsense. I'm heartbroken I've lied to you about this, and that I've stayed silent about it for so long.

I'm not going to stay silent anymore. I'm not going to let the bullies and the terrorists think that they can keep me from speaking my mind, even if my voice is small. Even if my voice is just a puff that gets carried away in the wind. At least I'll have stood up and shouted for anyone and everyone I know to hear: "This is not right, and it needs to stop! How many more people need to be killed? How many more riots need to happen? How much more injustice will we put with?"

Oh, my dear kids with white skin - please don't sit back and stay silent because you've believed the lie that racism is dead, or because you think racism doesn't affect you. Don't ignore the problem because you believe you can't do anything about it. Daughters, please join me in the only thing I know what to do. Join in this shout with me. Shout with me until it becomes more than a puff that gets lost in the wind. Shout that you're not better than anyone else for the inane fact that you weren't born with a whole lot of melanin in your skin. Shout that you demand all lives to matter the same. That you won't give up fighting this war until things have changed, or until you're six feet under. Shout that you won't stop thinking of ways to make things better. Don't let other's do the thinking for you. Think for yourself. And fight. Continually educate yourself, and fight. Because ignorance and racism seem to go hand-in-hand.

With an aching heart and a feeble shout on my lips,

Your Mom With White Skin (who still wishes she had a better answer, or knew more what to do)


Saturday, June 27, 2015

How Well My Girls Know Me

I've seen these posts floating around social media lately where you ask your children these specific questions, without any prompting, and write down their answers exactly as they've responded immediately. I've enjoyed reading all these posts my friends have been sharing, but decided I wanted to keep their responses in my blog to put into my 'blog-to-book" album forever, instead of just posting it to Facebook. Here are the questions, and the girls' answers. Prepare to be entertained.

Eleanor (or E) is 6 *almost 7*,  and Annabelle (A) just turned 5:

1. What is something mom always says to you?

E: No, don't do that!
A: Brush your teeth!

2. What makes mom happy?
E: Hugs and Kisses
A: ME!

3. What makes mom sad?
E: When we don’t listen
A: Not listening the first time

4. How does your mom make you laugh?
E: By tickling me
A: Telling jokes

5. What was your mom like as a child?
E: She liked crocheting!
A: She liked eating lady bugs and roly poly’s (True story. *Hangs head in shame*)

6. How old is your mom?
E: 31
A: 14

7. How tall is your mom?
E: 4 feet
R: 4 inches tall! Or 14 inches? No, I think 4 inches.

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
E: Spend time with us
A: Play with us! (Eleanor interjected, "You can’t say that, it’s too much like what I said – say: Write on her computer.”)

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?
E: Talk to her friends on the phone or go and see her friends
A: Go to weddings! (I’d just gone to a wedding)

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
E: Writing!
A: Teaching her class!

11. What is your mom really good at?
E: Writing
A: Teaching her daughters lots of things

12. What is your mom not very good at?
E: “You can’t really climb on that one bar at grandma’s house very well” (it's the long bar that goes diagonally from the ground to the top supporting beam. Eleanor can grab hold of it with her hands, and climb up to the top. I can get maybe two wobbly feet up, before losing my balance.)
A: I don’t know –nothing! There’s nothing she’s not good at

13. What does your mom do for a job?
T: Teaches 1st and 2nd grade
R: She's a teacher

14.What is your mom's favorite food?
E: Beans and Kale
A: Spinach, coconut, and lasagna!

15.What makes you proud of your mom?
T: That she’s MY mom
R: That she teaches her daughters so many things

16. If your mom were a character, who would she be?
E: Minnie Mouse
A: Daisy

17. What do you and your mom do together?
E: Play a lot
A: Make ice cream

18. How are you and your mom the same?
E: We have the same hair color and eyes
A: We have the same lips, and belly button, and the same ears, and the same eyes, and we drink the same things.

19. How are you and your mom different?
E: “You have bigger teeth”
A: “You don’t have curly hair like me”

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
T: She gives me hugs and kisses everyday
R: "Because you are always in my heart, and you say that you love me, and you say I’m always in your heart."

21. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?
E: To her writing group
A: She likes to go be with her friends.

22. How old was your Mom when you were born?
E: "Well, lets see. . . she’s thirty-one now, so if I do some math . . . then when I was born . . . then, she was 25 when I was born. But wait?! I AM going to be seven soon, so I should figure that in. . . you were 26? No -24! You were 24?"
A: She was 14.

This was such a fun activity to do with the girls, and a great activity to see that they really do know me.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Thoughts on Love from My Little Lioness

(I wrote this post a few months ago, and it's been sitting in my draft folder unpublished for so many reasons. Today felt like a good time to finally publish it) 

Driving in the car yesterday, the song "Say Something (I'm giving up on you)" came on my Pandora "Andrew Belle" Radio station. I wasn't even listening to it, my mind a million miles away processing all that I needed to do as I drove.

But as the final note played, Annabelle, aka 'My Little Lioness', asked with great concern, "But mommy, why is he giving up on her? Why does he have to say goodbye?"

My heart lurched at the sadness in her voice. "I don't know, sweetheart. I just don't."

She was quiet for a time, then suggested, "Maybe they had a big fight."

"Maybe they did. Sometimes that does happen."

"Maybe they just couldn't live in the same house anymore because of that."

"That's a possibility. It happens sometimes, unfortunately."

"I think they still love each other, don't you?"

"It certainly sounds like they do," I agreed. "I'm sure they do."

"But just because you love someone, doesn't always mean you have to live together, right mommy? You can love someone even if they have to go away."

I scratched my head, thinking - where on earth has my daughter gained this ancient wisdom from? "You're right, sweetheart. That's true. But who told you that?"

"Oh, no one. I just know it." She paused again for awhile. "Or maybe, maybe one of their friends is going to set them on fire and then cook them up, and that's why they have to say goodbye."

I tried not spitting out my water. It was a close call. "Well, I certainly hope that's not the case!"

Hours later, at the end of our long drive, she randomly piped up with another thought on this love business.

"Mommy, when you love someone, no matter what happens, they stay in your heart forever."

It wasn't a question. It was a fact that she's learned in her almost five years on earth.

It's true. I couldn't have said it better myself.

*       *         *  

I wish it was as simple and as straightforward as that for everyone as it is for my Little Lioness.

Sometimes two people just can't live in the same house anymore, for so many reasons. Sometimes it becomes so unhealthy and toxic for everyone involved that the only reasonable, and rational thing to do is to leave.

I wish it weren't so. And I wish my girls weren't so wise to this fact so early in their lives.


Monday, June 15, 2015

A Serendipitous Find: Local Free Swim Program (Did I Mention It's Free?)

As I drove around town yesterday running errands, I happened to drive past a very large park. The girls wiggled in their seats and I couldn't help but be drawn in by the huge expanse of green grass, the abundance of large shade trees, and the chance to get the girls out to run, stretch their legs, and get out some much needed energy.
I pulled into the parking lot, just as excited as they were, to get out and relax from our day of cleaning, organizing, car washes, and running errands. I needed a few moments to not worry about anything but just playing and relaxing together.

We walked past one birthday party and another on our way to the kids playground, when an elderly gentleman stopped us and asked if we were here for the free pool.

I stopped instantly and gave him my full attention. "The pool? Free? What free pool!?"

The old man crossed his arms over his protruding belly and laughed. "Oh, just the free pool that nobody seems to know about. They really should put signs up, or advertise it. Or something."

We chatted for a few minutes about this, I thanked him for the tip, and we scampered off to check out large playground and the free pool just next to it.

Sure enough, every weekend for 5 hours, and every day for an hour and a half in the afternoon, the pool where we drove by is open for free swim. For anyone.



And the best part? It's a very nice pool. It's clean. Not gross. Looks pretty new and well kept. I checked it our thoroughly. For a public pool, I was happily impressed.

They even have a large shallow, younger child section - check it out near the back:

(Not pictured - behind where I stood was another lap pool for adults only. Brilliant.) 

This is now a part of my summer plan. The nice part is it fit's in easily with my previous summer plans: go wherever I can,  for free. Adventures abound in nature, so that wasn't going to be a problem. But swimming is a huge part of summer memories, and that typically requires a pool. We don't have one of those . . . so pool swimming wasn't going to go on my list of regular summer activities.

Now? I have seven new parks to explore, seven free pools to swim in, and on a schedule I can work with.

I love those serendipitous moments. The moments that bring people together, or people to places that shouldn't be brought together, but they are anyway. The meeting and finding of things that shouldn't have been found, but are found anyway. Those moments? Like finding this free swim program I would have heard about unless I just happened to be driving down a street I wasn't planning on driving down? Yes. Those moments help to make a string of stressful and anxious-filled days just a bit more bearable and joy-filled.

I have a feeling great memories are going to be made at these pools this summer.

Check it out, it's not just this one park I drove past that has this free program. They also have a great program at other parks around the Southern California area. The Loma Alta Park is not far from us either, and we'll be heading there in the later afternoons and evenings as often as possible. If you're near one of these parks, and haven't heard about this free public swim program in the afternoons, check out the schedule that I snapped just for you all (okay, and for my future reference).

The swimming classes they teach at these parks go for two weeks, and are $20 for the two week session Which, is a much better deal than the swimming lessons we were paying the last couple of summers. Classes (at the Arcadia Park) begin June 29, and end July 10. Registration for the classes opens at 8 a.m. on June 27.  Call the numbers provided on this sheet for more information.

Hope to see you there, fellow frugal loving parents.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Beach Bumming Begins

(This is where I hang my head in shame that I promised to blog more, and here it is June and I haven't touched this blog since February. Again, I aim to change this. But, let's just see how it goes, shall we?  I won't make any promises. But I'm here now.) 

The last school year whizzed by faster than a bullet train engineered by a crazed madman aiming to beat the Guinness Book of speed records and drunk off of life.

It's true.

I didn't write enough about the adventures we've had this school year. Maybe I'll go back and write all about it this summer. Or. . .well, okay - let's be real here, friends. That's probably not going to happen. Let's not get crazy with expectations here.

But now that summer is here, and we have time to take things a little slower, we took some time this weekend to stop and drink in the wild air and swim in the sea (or rather - I have some more time to stop and blog about it)

It wasn't very promising for a day at the beach. Gray clouds. A smattering of rain as we drove down. But I was determined to scratch out some time and therapy with the sand and the sea. 
Gray clouds? The threat of rain? Not going to stop us.

When we have that attitude, even the gray clouds and the brisk breezes could not deter us from fully enjoying a day at the beach.

Especially when the beach promises tide pool exploration,

And scrambling over rocks as the tide comes in.

And crab hunting. Lots and lots of crab hunting. 

And brazenly ignoring the 'do not touch' signs we passed by. . . because how can you NOT touch when tide pooling?

And of course, who can resist digging for sand crabs? I can't. It's still my favorite. I'm so glad they agree. 

Can you find the sand crab? 

My mantra this summer, as much as physically possible, is to:

We did the best we could yesterday to live up to Emerson's words. 
We chanted it as we ran up and down the beach, splashing and kicking the sticky, salty sea water at each other. 
We hummed it as we picked up strand after strand of seaweed and made castles in the sand. 
We breathed it as we played 'queen of the sea.' 
I cannot wait to unwrap the rest of our summer adventuring. 
Our beach bumming has only begun.
If you're in our area this summer, friends. Come and join us.